Our daughter arrived 39 weeks later, a beautiful pink bundle of joy. She was perfect. She nursed well, slept well, and smelt wonderful. And then we left the hospital.
And this, my friends, is where all the fun begins. And guess what? It will never stop.
Don't pack your pre pregnancy clothes as your 'going home outfit' from the hospital. You know what? Don't be in a hurry to shove your maternity clothes into storage; you will probably be wearing your maternity clothes for a couple more weeks at least. I'm sorry, but you had to be told.
You will receive unsolicited advice from all around - your parents, your in-laws, your distant cousins, your grandparents, fellow mums at the clinic, strangers on the bus, the fishmonger at the market. Some mean well, but most will probably frustrate you more than ever.
You will be asked the strangest, and sometimes, rudest, things. Like if your baby is suffocating in that baby carrier. Or if your milk supply is enough because your baby is so small. Or why you're not shaving your baby's head because "surely that will help his sparse hair sprout out quicker". Or "why your tummy is still so big?" when hey, your baby's already 2 weeks old.
You will want to slap everyone who tells you to "rest when the baby is resting". And oh, if you could get a dollar for everyone who tells you what you should or should not be eating, you'd be rich. Here's a list of ten things that new mums really don't want to hear, by the way, and suggested responses (use freely but at your own risk).
You will second guess every single one of your decisions. You will regret some of them, but you will learn everything along the way. You will learn to appreciate your own mum, and when you turn to her in tears when your colicky baby has been crying non-stop for 3 hours, you will realise that no matter how old you are, you will always be your mother's child, and can always run to mummy for help. Even when you are a mother yourself.
You will have to choose between your husband and your baby, and whichever you choose, you will feel guilty about it. Most times though, you will choose your baby.
Despite all the things you have talked through with your husband prior to birth, you will fight. Oh, you will fight. Like you have never fought before. You will do your research about how best to put baby to bed, how to ease baby into a routine, how to feed baby, how not to feed baby, how to hold baby, how to bathe baby, how to talk to baby... and he will do it all wrong.
After yet another marathon breastfeeding session, you will gently slide yourself off the bed and tiptoe out of the room like a Ninja, only to be greeted by your loud door-opening husband who will inevitably wake the baby. Your glaring powers will undoubtedly reach its peak.
If you choose to breastfeed, there will come a time when you will wonder why you chose that route. You will understand that the term "sore nipples" really means "raw like they've been rubbed against sandpaper" nipples. But yet, you will persevere and continue, sandpaper nipples or not, because you believe that breast is best. You will roll your eyes when your baby cries for your breast for the 20th time in the hour, but still begrudgingly lift your t-shirt and aim your breast to your baby's mouth, all the while thinking "I really should bring the baby to the breast and not breast to baby, like what the books all say" but will probably tell yourself to remember that the next time, and suffer the neck aches and back strains.
Yet, you will continue to latch your baby on, or express in the dead of the night despite your bleeding nipples, sore nipples, milk blebs, blocked ducts, mastisis and pain or discomfort in general. Your thoughts will drift, as they sometimes will when one is deprived of sleep, to the day when you will finally be free of all this breastfeeding business, and slap yourself subconsciously for harbouring such evil thoughts.
There will come the time when you will either shove or think about shoving the breastpump on your husband's chest to prove that it's really not the most pleasant of experiences. You will, of course, feel a deep resentment when you see your husband in deep peaceful slumber when you're up again for another feed. It will be you who gets up, regardless of whether or not you're breastfeeding, because you will be blessed with the gift of light sleeping and your eyes will shoot open each time your baby stirs. Your husband on the other hand, will not receive this gift. Should you choose to accidently kick him in the shins each time you're up, know that you're not the only one, and that he will ultimately forgive you. Just don't keep kicking the same shin.
If you choose to bottle feed, you will probably be confused with the wide variety of bottles offered and the myraid of bottle teats to choose from. Anti colic? BPA free? Glass? Silicon? You will probably laugh at brands that claim they "mimic the look of the mother's nipple" because surely your nipples will not look like that! Or shucks, will they?!
Should milk be warm? Or at room temperature? Your mum will tell you one thing, doctors will tell you another. What milk powder is the best? How much milk to give? Why is your baby not drinking? Why is she still crying? Does she want more? Does she need to burp? Is it because her diaper is full?
Speaking of diapers. Cloth? Disposible? Make up your mind, and stick with it. You're not a bad person if you choose disposible diapers so that you can spend your precious free moments to catch a few minutes of rest instead of washing dirty nappies.
You will worry when the baby doesn't poop, and you will call every mum friend you know to ask how long their babies have gone without pooping (apparently 14 days without poop for a breastfed newborn is normal). And you will feel relief like you've never felt before when poop does finally come.
Whether or not you get help in the first few weeks, you will feel frustrated. Mainly because of the lack of control of situations, and that a big chunk of your time will be spent with the little one so you can't really do anything else. If you do have help, your helper/confinement nanny/mother/mother-in-law will probably drive you crazy. It may be because of the things that she does, or because of your shortened temper due to lack of sleep.
Speaking of sleep, sleep NOW. Stop wasting your time doing whatever it is you're doing at night. Sleep NOW because the next time you're going to get a full night's sleep is when your baby is a couple of months old. If you're lucky.
You may find yourself in the situation of "Should I go back to work? Or should I stay home with the baby?" Whatever you decide, there will be times when the grass will inevitably seem greener on the other side.
Your body. Yeah, that. It will never be the same again. Your belly will look like a deflated balloon with stripes. Ultimately, the stripes will lighten, and you will learn to appreciate your 'battle scars'. Till then, you will probably be too busy and tired to think about it.
In fact, you will feel more tired than you have ever been in your life. But when your little baby curls her fingers around yours, when you smell her head after a bath, when she falls asleep in your arms, you will feel all that tiredness float away, even if it's for a moment, and you will know that it's all worth it.
And you will feel so blessed to be trusted (and thrust) with the most important task in the world - bringing up a child. I know I do.
And it is true, what parents say. Babies grow up too fast. Take lots of pictures, give lots of kisses, because before you know it, that little thing that's barely fitting vertically in the cot, will soon be flipping over, sitting, standing, walking, talking, and running.
Good luck, and may the Motherhood force be with you.
If you know of a new mum-to-be, feel free to share this post with her!
Disclaimer: The above may or may not happen to you, but is a reasonably good description of what to expect. Of course, you will laugh about it now. But I say it now, in advance, "You're welcome".
Disclaimer upon disclaimer (is this how I should phrase it?): Goodness no, I am not pregnant again!